Archdeacon: Scoochie’s ‘New York swag’ lifts Red Scare

The Red Scare's Scoochie Smith shoots against The Money Team on Wednesday, July 27, in the third round of The Basketball Tournament at UD Arena in Dayton. David Jablonski/Staff

Combined ShapeCaption
The Red Scare's Scoochie Smith shoots against The Money Team on Wednesday, July 27, in the third round of The Basketball Tournament at UD Arena in Dayton. David Jablonski/Staff

As the Red Scare starters were being introduced Wednesday night at UD Arena, he stood on the midcourt line, bobbing back and forth, shaking out one leg, then the other, the way a heavyweight boxer does in his corner before a big fight.

The Money Team’s Trevor Booker was making his presence felt. He’s 6-foot-8 and an imposing 230 pounds and has a beefy basketball resume that includes eight years and 548 games in the NBA after being a first round pick of the Minnesota Timberwolves.

And now he was surrounded by a team that was seeded No. 1, included fellow NBA veteran Jimmer Fredette and was backed by boxing great Floyd Mayweather Jr.

Booker seemed to have it all going into this game of The Basketball Tournament.

But he was missing one thing:

A New York state of mind.

Or, as former Dayton Flyer, current New York Knick and animated Red Scare fan Obi Toppin put it: “New York swag.”

Booker’s from Whitmore, South Carolina, population 1,641.

Red Scare point guard Scoochie Smith is from the Bronx and when he takes the court, his swag is as important as his sneakers.

And so the former Dayton Flyers standout, unlike his fellow starters, veered over to Booker during introductions and gave him a fist bump.

Did he know him?

“Naah, I’d never see him a day in my life,” Smith said afterward.

It had been a way of defusing Booker’s presence.

But once the game started, TMT quickly imposed its will and, as it took a 12-2 lead, its players on the bench began to needle the Red Scare starters, including Smith.

It never fazed him, he said:

“I come from that, they don’t. The people on the bench were talking the most. The people on the court weren’t really talking. Some people can’t really do both. But I’m from New York and that’s what we do. It’s just my nature. I’m having fun.”

TMT was still leading by seven when the Red Scare’s Darrell Davis hit a three-pointer off a fast break. In the scrum beneath the basket, Booker and Smith got into a confrontation that soon would change the course of the game.

While Booker may have had the muscle, Scoochie had the big-moment moxie, something he learned growing up on the give-no-quarter outdoor courts and in the gyms of New York City, where you hone in-your-face debate like you do a cross-over dribble.

“He was just upset I didn’t get out of his way, so he threw his leg out and tried to shove me a little bit,” Smith said with a smile.

“But I can’t just let that happen, so I responded. I did it more so for the team and I think that just upped the energy and got the team where it needed to be.”

Red Scare forward Trey Landers waded in like the peacemaker and he eased Booker back from the melee, but then turned and waved his arms to get the hometown crowd roaring.

“That’s the reason I love Scooch so much,” Landers said later. “He don’t back down from nobody. That’s the culture of New York basketball. And we all feed off that.”

And that’s just what happened.

While Booker and Smith were both assessed a technical foul, the fallout affected the two teams differently.

TMT became a bit unglued and a couple of minutes later another of its players got a technical for jawing with the ref.

And then came the play Smith was waiting for. He got the ball deep on the wing when, through happenstance, Booker was guarding him.

“When I saw the iso (the one-on-one isolation play), I knew it was automatic,” Davis said. “I played with Scoochie three years. I know what he’s capable of doing.”

And with a quick maneuver, he had Booker where he wanted him and promptly launched a three-point shot that ripped the net cords and tied the score.

Combined ShapeCaption
The Red Scare's Scoochie Smith makes a 3-pointer against The Money Team on Wednesday, July 27, in the third round of The Basketball Tournament at UD Arena in Dayton. David Jablonski/Staff

Credit: David Jablonski

The Red Scare's Scoochie Smith makes a 3-pointer against The Money Team on Wednesday, July 27, in the third round of The Basketball Tournament at UD Arena in Dayton. David Jablonski/Staff

Credit: David Jablonski

Combined ShapeCaption
The Red Scare's Scoochie Smith makes a 3-pointer against The Money Team on Wednesday, July 27, in the third round of The Basketball Tournament at UD Arena in Dayton. David Jablonski/Staff

Credit: David Jablonski

Credit: David Jablonski

And just over a minute later, the Red Scare had the 39-37 halftime lead.

They ended up kayoing TMT, 83-81, when Josh Cunningham scored the Elam Ending short jumper thanks to a drive and feed by Smith.

Afterward Cunningham talked about how Smith’s confrontation changed the game:

“That’s his New York swag. Ever since I’ve known Scooch, that’s how he’s carried himself. A lot of times when people talk stuff, they then ball up (when confronted.) Not Scoochie.

“He don’t care how tall a person is or how big they are. He’s gonna put up a fight. It makes him lock in. It makes him more hungry and go after it more.”

After the game Smith, who had 15 points and Davis who had 19, talked to the media.

Asked about the no-hesitation trey he’d drilled on Booker, Smith grinned and hoisted one more shot:

“Yeah, I knocked his head off with that three!”

Next to him, Davis squirmed: “Aaaah…talking crazy!!!”

‘Basketball was 24/7′

Smith grew up in the Edenwalk Houses, the largest housing project in the Bronx. Although it had a reputation as a high-crime area, he said he grew up in a loving environment with his grandmother and aunt.

“Basketball was 24/7 when you were a kid in New York,” he once told me. “Kids go play basketball in the park at 7 in the morning before school.

“After school, they come back in their uniforms and start playing no matter what. They can be rippin’ their school pants and getting cussed out by their parents, but they want to play.”

He expanded on that Wednesday night:

“When you’re out there, some guys can’t play and some guys can. When you can, you’re gonna talk what you’re gonna do. You’re saying ‘You can’t guard me!’

“If you can’t play, you might be talkin’ because there’s nothing else you really can do. That’s the atmosphere in the parks.

“And now you’ve got all these street ball tournaments and the crowd’s right there and they’re talking and everybody’s hyped. It gives you energy.”

He played at Brother Rice High in Harlem until it closed and then ended up at Putnam Science Academy in Connecticut, where his mom lived.

He was skinny and initially bypassed by some schools. But then-UD assistant coach Allen Griffin, once an NYC schoolboy standout himself, fell in love with him, as did head coach Archie Miller.

“The thing I love about Scoochie is that he’s not afraid of the big game, the big moment,” Miller once told me. “He’s at his best in some of those situations when you really need a guy to step up and make something happen.”

And with fellow recruits Kendall Pollard and Kyle Davis – and later transfer Charles Cooke – Smith’s class won a UD-record 102 games and went to four straight NCAA tournaments, including the Elite Eight as a freshman.

He scored 1,289 points and since UD has gone on to play professionally in Australia, Greece, Serbia and in the NBA G-League.

Combined ShapeCaption
The Red Scare's Scoochie Smith shoots a free throw during the Elam Ending against the Golden Eagles in The Basketball Tournament on Wednesday, July 27, 2022, at UD Arena. David Jablonski/Staff

Credit: David Jablonski

The Red Scare's Scoochie Smith shoots a free throw during the Elam Ending against the Golden Eagles in The Basketball Tournament on Wednesday, July 27, 2022, at UD Arena. David Jablonski/Staff

Credit: David Jablonski

Combined ShapeCaption
The Red Scare's Scoochie Smith shoots a free throw during the Elam Ending against the Golden Eagles in The Basketball Tournament on Wednesday, July 27, 2022, at UD Arena. David Jablonski/Staff

Credit: David Jablonski

Credit: David Jablonski

Dayton family

Dayton, though, remains special to him, he said:.

“Since I took my first visit, they took me in like family. And now I’ve got my little brother (Malachi) here playing, so the family thing is solidified. We both feel the support of the community.”

And the bond of Flyers players – past, present and possibly future – has especially been on display during the TBT games here and certainly will be again tonight when the Red Scare meet Best Virginia, a team of mostly former West Virginia University players, including former Flyers point guard Juwan Staten, who transferred to WVU.

Several former Flyers have been in the Arena crowd during the Red Scare’s first three TBT victories. Most visible have been Toppin and former point guard Jalen Crutcher, who have been sitting right behind the bench and have been animated in their support, sometimes joining them in the huddle.

Many of the current UD players have taken turns joining them, too, and Wednesday night Jazz Gardner, a 7-foot, top 100 recruit from California, was right there, as well.

“I didn’t get formally introduced to him, but I’m sure he loved it here tonight,” Smith said. “And this is just a glimpse of what’s going to happen here in November.”

Maybe there was no face to face intro, but after Wednesday night you can be sure Gardner knows some of the same things about Scoochie as do the veteran Flyers.

“I’ve played with some great point guards in my career and he’s definitely right up there at the top,” said Red Scare forward and former Flyer Ryan Mikesell.”He’s one of those dudes who grew up in the parks in New York and he just has that mentality, that attitude, that swagger to him.

“You’ll never be able to take that from him no matter how old he is. It’s part of his love of the game.”

And that love was on display at game’s end Wednesday when he and Booker sought each other out and shook hands.

“It’s basketball, nobody’s really trying to fight,” Smith said. “We both finished the game and competed. And it was a great game. I showed him love for that. There were no hard feelings. There was nothing personal.”

“It’s just the way I play a game.”

It’s called “New York swag” and it’s why the Red Scare now have another game.

About the Author